Soon after completing Lolita in 1962, Stanley Kubrick, Peter George and Terry Southern took a straight-laced Cold War thriller novel published in 1958 as Red Alert, renamed all the characters for maximum absurdity, and created the satiric masterpiece Dr. Strangelove. But Kubrick needed a subtitle to give the movie a mockumentary sting.
By the 1960s, the formula for non-fiction subtitles was well-entrenched. Among the biggest self-help bestsellers in mid-century American bookstores were Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living; Betty Crocker: Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today; How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).
Endpaper has a page from one of Kubrick’s diaries that dates back to the early-60′s as he groped toward a mash-up that made the catchiest combination of those stock phrases.
This is fascinating for a number of reasons – the opportunity to look at a genius’ brainstorming process, the chance to imagine the classic film existing with any of these alternate titles – but it’s probably most interesting because this page ultimately led to what is arguably one of the greatest names for a movie of all time: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
It can now be revealed how close we came to Dr Strangelove’s Secret Uses of Uranus. After the cut are a list of some of the other titles Kubrick came up with:
Don’t Knock the Bomb
Dr. Doomsday and his Nuclear Wiseman
Dr. Doomsday Meets Ingrid Strangelove
Dr. Doomsday or: How to Start World War III Without Even Trying
Dr. Strangelove’s Bomb
Dr. Strangelove’s Secret Uses of Uranus
My Bomb, Your Bomb
Save The Bomb
Strangelove: Nuclear Wiseman
The Bomb and Dr. Strangelove or: How to be Afraid 24hrs a Day